When your Business Partner is also your Life Partner
Any entrepreneur will tell you that running your own business can be challenging. And any married person can confirm that marriages also have their fair share are ups and downs. People have been partnering with their spouses for decades (remember the mom & pop shop?); but that does not mean it comes easy. So what can you do if you want the family business, and a decent family life? It is going to take some work.
My husband and I are partners, both personally and professionally. We run a business together, a home together, share a life together, parent together. We are still figuring out how to make it work, but here are a couple tips we picked up to help you keep your working relationship, and your marriage, on track.
Define your roles and hold each other accountable.
Setting defined roles and responsibilities is a really good idea. It is tempting as a small business owner to jump in wherever something needs to be done, but giving each of you your own domain can help with disagreements later on. In our business, my husband deals with importing, legal, client management, sales, paperwork. I manage the website, the e-commerce, the ordering system, media outreach, PR, design and social media. We each have an employee to assist us in that area. This really helps when we do not see eye to eye. It is clear which one of us owns this, who has the final say. While it is important to keep communication open, there should be one person who ultimately is responsible for each aspect of the business. And as a partner, you hold them accountable and support them in decision making.
Don’t take work home with you.
Easier said than done. But important to remember. Also, if you are still in the hustle, you might be working late into the evening so this is unavoidable. But try to remember that your spouse might be looking for someone to listen to them vent about the day, and that their feelings are valid. Be supportive. Having a challenging day? If something is up that won't be solved outside of business hours, resist the urge to talk it out at the dinner table. Use home time to talk about household responsibility, the children, your dreams, desires, hobbies - anything that is not work related.
Consider working in separate spaces.
Being together all day long every day can place real strain on the relationship. In our case, I go into the office one day a week, and that is the day where we go over the business, have those important discussions and brainstorms. Otherwise, we work autonomously, checking in a couple of times throughout the day. If you are in the Toronto area, the opportunities for places to work are endless. Co-working spaces are popping up everywhere, with a variety of amenities. There are coffee shops, libraries and home office space to consider. Having your space tuned to how you work best helps you get into a rhythm and it helps with focus and productivity.
Otherwise known as “me-time.” Love yoga? Table Tennis? Woodworking? Dedicate some time away from your partner and into your hobby weekly. Participating in activities together is a wonderful idea if it nurtures the relationship, but having a life outside of the office is important too. A weekly class can help you develop new friendships, speak to others with different perspectives and help you unwind and relax. A happy, well-rounded and fulfilled partner makes a better partner, co-worker, and a better co-parent.
Book that time to talk about the business (and to not talk about business)
It is really easy to get caught up in the hustle of the day to day and forget that you are working on a common goal. Once a week, set an hour aside to discuss your goals for the business. Brainstorm solutions to any issues, talk strategy and decide what areas of your business need some more attention. This is also a really great opportunity to evaluate which of you is working on what, and who might need some extra support at home in order to reach your goals. And then, schedule a date night. Do something fun together, enjoy each other, and take the opportunity to talk about anything else other than your sales projections, clients and workload.
We are not pros at this yet! So if you have any other "work with your spouse and stay sane" suggestions, I am happy to hear them. Sound off in the comments.
Jennifer Chua is the Creative Director of Hip Mommies, a distribution company for thoughtfully-designed baby, toddler and pet products.